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Alloc, Inc. v. Norman D. Lifton Co.

September 8, 2009

ALLOC, INC., BERRY FINANCE, N.V., AND VÄLINGE ALUMINUM AB, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
NORMAN D. LIFTON CO., BALTA U.S., INC. AND BALTERIO, N.V., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Paul A. Crotty, United States District Judge

USDC SDNY

DOCUMENT ELECTRONICALLY FILED COURT DOC #:

OPINION & ORDER

Plaintiffs Alloc, Inc., Berry Finance, N.V., and Välinge Innovation AB*fn1 (collectively "Alloc") hold three related patents: U.S. Patent No. 6,516,579 (the "'579 Patent"), U.S. Patent No. 6,023,907 (the "'907 Patent"), and U.S. Reissued Patent No. RE39,439 (the "Re '439 Patent") (collectively the "Pervan Patents"). The Pervan Patents are part of a family of patents that describe a system of interlocking floor panels. Alloc brings this action against Defendants Norman D. Lifton Co., Balta U.S., Inc., and Balterio, N.V. (collectively "Balterio") because it claims that the "Click Xpress" floor panels manufactured and sold by Balterio infringe upon the Pervan Patents.

Balterio moves for summary judgment on four separate grounds. First, it argues that the Click Xpress floor panels do not, as a matter of law, infringe upon the Pervan Patents. Second, it contends that even if the Click Xpress panels do infringe upon the Pervan Patents, Alloc cannot demonstrate that this infringement was willful. Third, it claims that the '579 Patent and Re '439 Patent are invalid. Finally, it alleges that the '579 Patent is unenforceable due to inequitable conduct on the part of Alloc's patent attorney and Välinge's president during the patent prosecution process.

For the following reasons, Balterio's second motion for summary judgment, on the issue of willful infringement, is GRANTED. Its first, third, and fourth motions for summary judgment-on the issues of non-infringement, invalidity, and unenforceability-are DENIED.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Välinge, a Swedish corporation, is the assignee of the Pervan Patents. The Pervan Patents originated with a 1993 Swedish patent application made by Välinge, which in turn formed the basis for five U.S. patents, including the '579, '907, and Re '439 patents presently at issue. Plaintiff Berry, a Belgian corporation, is the exclusive licensee of the Pervan Patents, and Plaintiff Alloc is a U.S. affiliate of Berry and sub-licensee of the patents.

Defendant Balterio, a Belgian corporation, manufactures the Click Xpress floor panels that Alloc alleges infringe upon the Pervan Patents. Defendants Norman D. Lifton Co. and Balta are U.S. corporations that sell Click Xpress panels in the U.S.

The present case is one in a series of actions brought by Alloc against various defendants since 2000, alleging infringement of the Pervan Patents. (See Transcript of Oral Argument on Feb. 2, 2009 ("OA Tr.") at 72:23-73:4.) Alloc filed its original Complaint on June 18, 2003 and filed an Amended Complaint on May 10, 2006.

On July 18, 2007, pursuant to Markman v. Westview Instruments, Inc., 517 U.S. 370 (1996), the Court issued an Opinion & Order on Claim Construction construing the meaning of the relevant claim language in the Pervan Patents.*fn2 Alloc, Inc. v. Norman D. Lifton Co., No. 03 Civ. 4419 (PAC), 2007 WL 2089303 (S.D.N.Y. July 18, 2007). The Court adopted the findings made by the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Alloc, Inc. v. International Trade Commission, 342 F.3d 1361 (Fed. Cir. 2003), which considered some of the same claim construction issues raised in the present matter.*fn3 See Alloc, 2007 WL 2089303, at *6, *11. Specifically, the Court adopted the Federal Circuit's definition of the term "play" as "a space between a locking groove on a first panel and the locking element of a panel adjacent to the first panel." See id. at *6. It further agreed with the Federal Circuit that all of the patents in the Pervan family incorporated the element of "play" into their designs, i.e. they all described a space between the locking element and locking groove. Id. at *11.

Following the Court's ruling on claim construction, Balterio filed its present motions for summary judgment on March 28, 2008.

DISCUSSION

I. Standard of Review for a Motion for ...


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